The gift from James F. Dougherty, a Rutgers alumnus and Board of Governors member who has supported the university in numerous ways for more than two decades, creates an endowed chair named for the Rutgers School of Public Health Dean Perry N. Halkitis.

A gift of $3 million from James F. Dougherty, a Rutgers alumnus and longtime supporter of the university, will fund the Perry N. Halkitis Endowed Chair in LGBTQ+ Public Health, a new position at the School of Public Health that has been unanimously approved by the Board of Governors.

Rutgers School of Public Health Dean Perry N. Halkitis, Hunterdon Professor of Public Health and Health Equity, and Distinguished Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology
Dean Perry N. Halkitis

Halkitis, who in addition to serving as dean holds the roles of Hunterdon Professor of Public Health and Health Equity, and Distinguished Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, praised Dougherty’s generosity. “The endowed chairship in LGBTQ+ Public Health is a commitment to the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people and populations by supporting research, academic excellence, and community engagement in this area,” says Halkitis, who also is founder and director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS).

Dougherty says his motivation for making the gift is to support an emphasis on LGBTQ+ health at Rutgers long into the future. He says he chose to name the endowed chair after Halkitis, who began as dean in 2017, because Halkitis has been a tremendous leader. “My hope is that there will always be a champion for LGBTQ+ rights and public health continuing on in the mold that Perry has established,” he says.

Dougherty says he has been planning the gift for several years, and feels that in light of a rise in transphobia, homophobia, and hate in general across the country, the timing is fortuitous. “It's happening at a time when I think it's very needed,” he says.

In addition to Dougherty’s gift of $3 million, Rutgers Health Chancellor Brian L. Strom is devoting an additional $2 million to support the new chair. The new position, Strom says, will be key in launching the planned Rutgers Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health (R-LGBTQ) which has been envisioned by Dean Halkitis and his collaborator Gloria Bachmann of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The proposed institute will serve as a comprehensive, state-of-the-art academic, research, and clinical coordination center for LGBTQ+ populations but also for facilitating the development of public policy for the health of LGBTQ+ people and populations. “Dr. Dougherty’s gift is a major step toward our goal of ensuring that Rutgers remains a leader in LGBTQ+ health needs,” Strom says.

A Lightbulb Moment

Dougherty’s motivation to support Rutgers began in the late nineties when he was cleaning up the basement of his late mother’s home and found a storage box full of documents pertaining to financial aid he had received from Rutgers more than 20 years before. “I found boxes with all of my scholarship papers in it,” he says, noting that he was an undergraduate who benefitted from the Rutgers Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program in addition to other need and merit-based scholarships. “These literally gave me a free ride to my four years at Rutgers, allowing me to pursue advanced degrees.”

Dougherty, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 1974 and a master’s in animal science at Rutgers in 1975, by then had gone on to earn a veterinary degree and establish a successful practice outside of Philadelphia. “I've always felt that Rutgers has done a lot for me,” he says, noting that finding that box “motivated me to want to pay it back.”

He became deeply involved in supporting Rutgers, which over two decades has included funding scholarships and a study room at the Rutgers–New Brunswick Honors College, as well as serving on a number of governing and advisory boards. Dougherty, who recently sold his veterinary practice and retired, joined the Rutgers Board of Governors in 2020. He has served as chair and vice chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, and is the current chair of the Rutgers University–Camden Board of Directors. In addition, he serves or has served in various roles, including the Rutgers–New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council, the School of Public Health Dean’s Leadership Council, and the Tyler Clementi Center Advisory Board.

As vice chair of the Board of Trustees, he was instrumental, along with other trustees, in establishing the Scarlet Promise Grants program, now known as the Scarlet Promise Initiative. As Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway noted in his stakeholder address in October, fundraising for the program has already exceeded the $50 million, three-year goal he set at his inauguration in 2021.

Dougherty says the success of the Scarlet Promise program and the role he played helping to establish its importance was inspirational. “I got to see the power of philanthropy,” he says.

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